William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was a great Irish poet, and a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1923).  He is also one of my personal favorites.  Many of his best poems (as of 2004) are not yet in the public domain.  The ones that follow are.


The Lake Of Innisfree

Maid Quiet

The Folly Of Being Comforted 

Never Give All The Heart 

No Second Troy 


Against Unworthy Praise 

A Friend's Illness 

To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing 

Two Years Later

Fallen Majesty

The Wild Swans At Coole 

An Irish Airman Foresess His Death 

The Living Beauty 

A Deep-Sworn Vow 

The Balloon Of The Mind 

The Second Coming 



The Lake Isle Of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet's wings.


I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.


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Maid Quiet 


Where has Maid Quiet gone to,

Nodding her russet hood?

The winds that awakened the stars

Are blowing through my blood.

O how could I be so calm

When she rose up to depart?

Now words that called up the lightning

Are hurtling through my heart.


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The Folly Of Being Comforted 


One that is ever kind said yesterday:

'Your well-beloved's hair has threads of grey,

And little shadows come about her eyes;

Time can but make it easier to be wise

Though now it seem impossible, and so

All that you need is patience.'


Heart cries, 'No,

I have not a crumb of comfort, not a grain.

Time can but make her beauty over again:

Because of that great nobleness of hers

The fire that stirs about her, when she stirs,

Burns but more clearly.  O she had not these ways

When all the wild summer was in her gaze.'


O heart! O heart! if she'd but turn her head,

You'd know the folly of being comforted.


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Never Give All The Heart 


Never give all the heart, for love

Will hardly seem worth thinking of

To passionate women if it seem

Certain, and they never dream

That it fades out from kiss to kiss;

For everything that's lovely is

But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.

O never give the heart outright,

For they, for all smooth lips can say,

Have given their hearts up to the play.

And who could play it well enough

If deaf and dumb and blind with love?

He that made this knows all the cost

For he gave all his heart and lost.


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No Second Troy 


Why should I blame her that she filled my days

With misery, or that she would of late

Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,

Or hurled the little streets upon the great,

Had they but courage equal to desire?

What could have made her peaceful with a mind

That nobleness made simple as a fire,

With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind

That is not natural in an age like this,

Being high and solitary and most stern?

Why, what could she have done, being what she is?

Was there another Troy for her to burn?


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Ah, that Time could touch a form

That could show what Homer's age

Bred to be a hero's wage.

'Were not all her life but storm,

Would not painters paint a form

Of such noble lines,' I said,

'Such a delicate high head,

All that sternness amid charm,

All that sweetness amid strength?'

Ah, but peace that comes at length,

Came when Time had touched her form.


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Against Unworthy Praise 


O heart, be at peace, because

Nor knave nor dolt can break

What's not for their applause,

Being for a woman's sake.

Enough if the work has seemed,

So did she your strength renew,

A dream that a lion had dreamed

Till the wilderness cried aloud,

A secret between you two,

Between the proud and the proud.


What, still you would have their praise!

But here's a haughtier text,

The labyrinth of her days

That her own strangeness perplexed;

And how what her dreaming gave

Earned slander, ingratitude,

From self-same dolt and knave;

Aye, and worse wrong than these.

Yet she, singing upon her road,

Half lion, half child, is at peace.


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A Friend's Illness  


Sickness brought me this

Thought, in that scale of his:

Why should I be dismayed

Though flame had burned the whole

World, as it were a coal,

Now I have seen it weighed

Against a soul?


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To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing 


Now all the truth is out,

Be secret and take defeat

From any brazen throat,

For how can you compete,

Being honour bred, with one

Who, were it proved he lies,

Were neither shamed in his own

Nor in his neighbours' eyes?

Bred to a harder thing

Than Triumph, turn away

And like a laughing string

Whereon mad fingers play

Amid a place of stone,

Be secret and exult,

Because of all things known

That is most difficult.


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Two Years Later  


Has no one said those daring

Kind eyes should be more learn'd?

Or warned you how despairing

The moths are when they are burned?

I could have warned you; but you are young,

So we speak a different tongue.


O you will take whatever's offered

And dream that all the worlds' a friend.

Suffer as your mother suffered,

Be as broken in the end.

But I am old and you are young,

And I speak a barbarous tongue.


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Fallen Majesty 


Although crowds gathered once if she but showed her face,

And even old men's eyes grew dim, this hand alone,

Like some last courtier at a gypsy camping-place

Babbling of fallen majesty, records what's gone.


The lineaments, a heart that laughter has made sweet,

These, these remain, but I record what's gone.  A crowd

Will gather, and not know it walks the very street

Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud.


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The Wild Swans At Coole 


The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry,

Under the October twilight the water

Mirrors a still sky;

Upon the brimming water among the stones

Are nine-and-fifty swans.


The nineteenth autumn has come upon me

Since I first made my count;

I saw, before I had well finished,

All suddenly mount

And scatter wheeling in great broken rings

Upon their clamorous wings.


I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,

And now my heart is sore.

All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,

The first time on this shore,

The bell-beat of their wings above my head,

Trod with a lighter tread.


Unwearied still, lover by lover,

They paddle in the cold

Companionable streams or climb the air;

Their hearts have not grown old;

Passion or conquest, wander where they will,

attend upon them still.


But now they drift on the still water,

Mysterious, beautiful;

Among what rushes will they build,

By what lake's edge or pool

Delight men's eyes when I awake some day

To find they have flown away?


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An Irish Airman Foresees His Death 


I know that I shall meet my fate

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

My country is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight

Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

I balanced all, brought all to mind,

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.


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The Living Beauty 


I bade, because the wick and oil are spent

And frozen are the channels of the blood,

My discontented heart to draw content

From beauty that is cast out of a mould

In bronze, or that in dazzling marble appears,

Appears, but when we have gone is gone again,

Being more indifferent to our solitude

Than 'twere an apparition.  O heart, we are old;

The living beauty is for younger men:

We cannot pay its tribute of wild tears.


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A Deep-Sworn Vow 


Others because you did not keep

That deep-sworn vow have been friends of mine;

Yet always when I look death in the face,

When I clamber to the heights of sleep,

Or when I grow excited with wine,

Suddenly I meet your face.


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The Balloon Of The Mind 


Hands, do what you're bid:

Bring the balloon of the mind

That bellies and drags in the wind

Into its narrow shed.


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The Second Coming 


Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.


Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming!  Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight:  somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


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